« If without perfume, we are nothing, without image, perfume is nothing, » believes Alain Montandon, professor emeritus of General and Comparative Literature. (1) More than just a simple fragrance, perfume evokes a feeling and an image. Using it is therefore very symbolic for women. Fragrances are surrounded by connotations that brands carefully build and manipulate.
To perfect the relationship between consumers and their perfumes, Thierry Mugler pioneered a unique loyalty strategy.
Born from the imagination of theatre designer Simon Bénarousse, who found children’s clothes too simple and boring, the brand “Du Pareil au même” (translation: “six of one, (and) half a dozen of the other”) has always been defined by fun and colourful products. After the brand’s first store opened in 1986, the French success story is now really taking shape. A baby line was launched in 1994 and then a line of shoes in the 2000s, the club card (loyalty program) was launched in 2004 and events take place regularly. By 2013 the brand was present across 32 countries, had 2.5 million subscribers to its loyalty program and opened its 600th store. (1) How has the brand changed the clothing market? How has it developed its strategy? How does it communicate to mums?
The children’s clothing market
As the fastest growing sector of the apparel market, the children’s sector is supported by positive structural factors, including a growing target population, the fact that children change size and shoe size every 6 months until they hit adolescence, the rise in the average age of women when they have their first child (stronger buying power), etc. However, according to the Xerfi institute, it seems to be struggling in the economic context of 2013. Specialists brands are competing with extensions of adult brands (Zara Kids, Mexx Kids, Gap Kids, etc.) who are trying to gain customers from the child sector. (2) This is why DPAM re-launched its marketing strategy, expanding its digital offer amongst other initiatives.
« Our greatest achievement was not discovering the properties of plants, but making them available to everyone. » So believes Yves Rocher, the famous founder of the botanical beauty company of the same name. He was guided by two key aims: accessible beauty and scientific innovation using plants.
Fascinated by active ingredients in plants, the young Yves Rocher started his business at 28 years old with a ‘lesser flower’ based cream. At that time, in 1959, the beauty market was still dominated by the elite, so the young businessman decided to make cosmetics accessible to all women. (2) This is how mail-order selling started, publishing ads in national newspapers and popular magazines such as “Ici Paris” and “France Dimanche. » (1) The success was immediate and the brand rapidly gained momentum in France. With a client base of around 5,000 addresses, the brand now attracts over 30 million customers worldwide.
Be reassured, informed, understood, guided, more beautiful. These are the main needs of expectant mothers. Although responding to all these needs is not an easy task for companies, one brand, among others, has established a reputation for itself in the relatively niche market of pregnant women. That brand is Clarins. What factors have caused this success? What is the « baby » strategy of this cosmetics brand?
The long established relationship between Clarins and future mothers
In 1993, Clarins was already making an impact on the cosmetics for expectant mothers market when it published the book « Pregnancy, the most beautiful days of your life. » The brand was launched; Clarins established itself as the brand leader for beauty advice during pregnancy.
Interview with Salim Azar, Professor at the University of Cergy Pontoise
Womenology: What are the characteristics of a brand hoping to address a female audience?
The emergence of new sociological, political, philosophical and artistic trends has caused new approaches to consumption and brands. Beyond a symbolic and emotional view of brands, self-expression has become a decisive factor in consumer choices and preferences. Movements such as feminism and postmodernism have highlighted the importance of the consumption of symbols and feelings, in a subjective and hyper-real context. Feminism highlights women’s day to day experiences, and postmodernism emphasizes the importance of hedonism and pleasure in life. By capitalizing on these movements, it is now widely accepted in marketing that consumers no longer choose products just for functional uses, but also for what they represent. Brands become de facto capital because they act mainly in this way. In my research, based on an anthropomorphic brand approach, I am interested in analysing the traits and characteristics of “gendered” brands. I found that brands, like humans, have a sex, a gender and a sexual orientation. These tools help managers to improve their ability to address all women.
Victor Mills, American chemical engineer who worked at Procter & Gamble Co in the 50s, revolutionized the baby market when he invented the disposable nappy. Inspired by his own experiences with his grandchildren, the inventor created the Pampers brand, known for its innovation. It was the first company to replace nappy pins with tape, and then the first to develop extendable ties, absorbent gels and multipacks (1970), but its most famous achievement, Baby Dry, came out in the 90s. (1) Thanks to this new technology, nappies became more absorbent and parents’ lives were transformed.
Let’s take a closer look at this market leader. What is its marketing strategy, its advantage over competitors and its market vision?
Innovation gains consumer trust
With its knack for launching innovative new products on the nappy market, Pampers has established itself as the brand to beat, and is now one of the brands most trusted by mums (Study Millward Brown, TrustR , 2011). (2)
Investing around $2 billion in research each year, P&G bases their Pampers brand strategy totally on innovation and technology. In fact, in March 2013, the Pampers Research and Development centre in Schwalbach, near Frankfurt in Germany was more than happy to open its doors to French journalists and bloggers. (3)
Created in 1979 in the United States, the Happy Meal menu soon found its audience. Its success is partly due to the famous little toy, originally purchased separately and then included in the menu. From basic gifts such as Frisbees or balls, the toys have become more intricate and their quality has improved. McDonald’s now even offer Disney licensed toys. But children’s enthusiasm for the Happy Meal is also down to McDonald’s’ collaborations with recent movie releases. From “Star Trek » to « Star Wars » to « Despicable Me, » McDonald’s has become an essential communication tool to the film world.
However, it is the « gendered » characteristics of these famous toys which have really built up the reputation of the Happy Meal. There’s no need to ask parents around the world to know that the question asked by Mcdonalds staff; “For a Boy or a Girl?” is notorious.
The Happy Meal as a champion for gender stereotypes
Given as gifts, the toys symbolize affection and an intent to please. They also provide a lot of fun for children. But behind this playful front lies a darker aspect to the toys, linked to socialisation. « (…)As both a cultural instrument and a social learning aid, the toy is a key factor in socialisation. This is without doubt the most established, yet most hidden role of the Happy Meal… This is because the toy both triggers and reflects urban communication in the media and in children’s education. It makes that child a product of the times and outlines successive roles that the child will be expected to take on throughout the different stages of life, » writes sociologist Sandrine Vincent.
Innovation is now crucial across all economic sectors. Every year over 30,000 new products are launched in European stores, but less than 30% of them are still around 3 years after their launch. The Toluna survey for the 2012 LSA innovation awards focuses on women and innovation and might shake up some common beliefs!
In fact, 80.2% of French women say that they have bought new products this year, compared to only 76.1 % of men. Even in the very large consumer innovation category, women have almost caught up with men (6.9% and 7.6% respectively). Women are not put off by innovation, quite the contrary.
They also have a broader view of innovation: they don’t just cite High-Tech as one of the most innovative sectors in FMCG, but also Health and Beauty, fresh dairy products, DIY, household appliances etc. To find out more about such innovations, women prefer seeing them in store (58%) rather than in the media (49%), whereas men have the opposite preference.
Shopping is generally thought of as a typically feminine activity and female consumers have gained the reputation of being shopaholics! However, we are now seeing a number of changes. The economic situation in France has become more complicated in recent years, purchasing power is a worry for many households, and new technology is evolving … How are women responding to these changes? What shopping habits do they have in 2013? Have their expectations and attitudes changed? Are Smartphones and e-commerce now an integral part of their purchases?
In answer to these questions, in June 2013, Unibail-Rodamco launched a Shopping Observatory, in partnership with Ipsos, to try and understand French women and their shopping patterns, their motivations, what holds them back, their indulgences, as well as future trends. (1)
In the past, socialisation of young children only occurred in certain situations, including the family unit, at school and amongst peers. However, the increasing availability of television and internet access has changed this traditional pattern. Whereas children’s environments generally used to be controlled by parents and schools, nowadays children have unlimited access to media content. This development has brought about a number of concerns: the feeling of a loss of control could lead to potential media intrusion or invasion on daily life… Various groups have attempted to take control of this problem. For example, the European Council provides clear, standardised guidelines which allow guardians to control and avoid any potentially negative media influences on children. However, the amount of freedom that the small screen allows is still widely disputed and feared by the public.
Is Television an accessible resource or a threat to education?
In recent years, the number of murders committed by teenagers has multiplied, and it is commonly believed that the killers may be influenced by excessive consumption of ultra-violent media content. This belief has been challenged by philosopher Marie-José Mondzain in his book « Can imagery kill?” In the book he disputes the idea that exposure to violent content can directly influence behaviour. This imitation theory is based on the assumption that teenagers have no ability to put information into context or the capacity to take information in any way other than imitating it. The fear of such images does not just concern video games, but almost every type of visual content, whether it is reality (TV news) or fiction (cartoons, advertising…). Children’s TV programs are therefore perceived as potentially dangerous.